Zac Purton sealed his fourth champion jockey title last season, reigning supreme with 147 wins to end the term as the current dominant force in Hong Kong with 1,170 career wins. But with a new campaign starting on Sunday, 6 September, the champion jockey is predicting that this season’s battle to retain his crown will be the toughest yet.
“I think it’s going to be harder this season because John Moore was a good supporter of mine these past few seasons and he’s now departed,” Purton said. “Although David Hayes has come in, it appears as though he’s going to spread his rides around and it looks like his younger horses won’t be ready until later this year and early next year.”
A new season always brings new challenges and challengers but Purton expects his main rival at the top will once again be Joao Moreira who has a firm association with John Size, an 11-time champion trainer in Hong Kong.
“John Size had a quiet season last season and looked like he started to put a few of his good horses away to really focus on this season, I just think because of those things it swings the pendulum into Joao’s (Moreira) favour and it’s going to be harder for me. But, you know, it is what it is, I’ll just keep turning up and hopefully I can get some support,” Purton said.
Purton’s latest championship gave him a third title on the bounce but before the Australian’s dominant run it was Moreira who, with a then season-high 145 wins (2014/15), unseated him as champion after just one season at the top. The Brazilian sensation went on to tally 168 and 170 wins for two more titles (2015/16, 2016/17) and looked to have a firm grip on the champion’s trophy.
But Purton has bounced back strongly since then and after hitting the front in the title race in March of last season, the 37-year-old never looked back. He charged home with a win total of 147 to Moreira’s 138 to beat his rival to a fourth crown.
Purton kicks off this campaign’s proceedings with nine rides at Sunday’s season-opening fixture, including Wishful Thinker in the Class 1 HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup (1200m).
“I haven’t had much to do with him previously so he’s new to me, but his trial was fine: he showed a little bit of speed, which I was surprised with, but he did manage to travel up really comfortably behind them coming into the straight; when I peeled him out he did put the brakes on and stop a bit, so he’s a bit of a tricky horse,” Purton said.